I use a Canon 600D and currently have three lenses:

  • EFS 18-55mm
  • A very old 50mm Pentax I use with adapter
  • A very old (1970s?) Auto Super-Paragon 200mm f/3.3 I use with an adapter

I want to get more into wildlife photography and have started exploring bird hides. I use the 200mm I have but it doesn't really have the focal length I'm after and obviously doesn't have IS and autofocus.

I think I've narrowed down the choice to the following two but I'm very open to suggestions:

  • Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM - new
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM Lens - second hand (note this is the original not the update)

A second hand 100-400 is a bit more expensive than a new 70-300. I'm leaning toward the 70-300 because:

  • the max 300mm focal length equates to 480mm given it's an APS-C sensor camera, which should be more than enough and significantly more than my current 200 (equivalent to 320mm)

  • the push-pull feature on the 100-400 I've heard has issues sucking dust and moisture in

  • it's cheaper than the second-hand 100-400

  • it's generally better to have a new lens if possible than risk issues with second-hand

However, I'm aware that the L series is superior and has weather sealing. I can no way afford the 100-400 IS II, even second hand, so it would have to be the original second hand. But I'm not sure it's worth it given I'm still very much an amateur.

Is there anything I'm missing or is 70-300 probably sufficient? Are there any others to consider? Any advice appreciated!

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you considered any of the popular 150-600mm lenses from Sigma and Tamron? You can probably get a used one for about the same as a used EF 100-400mm. When they're on sale, they often can be had new for around $900. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jun 4, 2021 at 9:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Consider renting for a weekend, if it's an option. The rental price could be worth it, to put your mind at ease that you are making the right decision for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Jun 4, 2021 at 10:03
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm with @MichaelC on this one. As soon as you have a decent 300mm you realise you need more. 300 is fine for geese & ducks in the park, things that will let you get very close. It's next to useless if you can't get inside 10m. One of those is still on my shopping list, so my only preference, the Tamron, is because the way the zoom & focus turns is the same as Nikon; Sigma goes the opposite way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 4, 2021 at 10:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Using a Sigma 120-400 on a 70D, and eyeballing the Canon 100-400 as an upgrade. Wary of the longer Sigma/Tameon lenses because they only open at f/6.3 and the autofocus starts to be unreliable/inaccurate, so it depends on how good your 600D AF is. Your 600D is also not that good at high ISOs so you need all the aperture you can afford. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Jun 4, 2021 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xenoid With all due respect, the Sigma Global vision lenses in the super telephoto focal length ranges are much better than their earlier long telephoto zoom lenses. They don't get nearly as soft at the longest focal lengths as the older ones do. Both Sigma and Tamron have upped their game considerably in the last 5-7 years. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Jun 4, 2021 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


I was in a similar situation with my Canon 500D and tamron 70-300 lens (which broke after a ribbon cable inside of it disconnected). I used the 70-300 mainly for wildlife photography, but also for macro, landscapes, and other general photography.

For your purposes, the 70-300 could be sufficient, but I would not get this lens specifically for bird photography unless you are able to get really close to birds. For general photography, wildlife, and occasional bird or macro, I would say it's an excellent lens. With a Canon 500d (T1i) and old tamron 70-300, I was able to get some pretty good shots, but they required extremely close distances to the subject:

enter image description here

A sigma 150-600 would be a much better choice for bird photography, but it is a bit unwieldy to carry around for general photography unlike the 70-300. It also won't let you get too close to your subject since the minimum focus distance is 8.5ft. It should have better IQ than the canon 100-400, does not have the push-pull dust problem, and has a very good zoom range, image stabilization, and autofocus. I bought mine here (prices fluctuate between 900-1000) and it has worked very well for me. It also comes with a simga dock, which allows you to update autofocus firmware and calibrate the the autofocus. A used canon 100-400 could also work, but it's a pretty old lens at this point. A main advantage would be that it is lighter and has the canon brand, if those are important factors for you. But if weight is an important factor and you do not care about the Canon brand, a new sigma 100-400 like this would probably be a better choice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for your response! It looks like you went for the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary. Do you have a view on the Contemporary v Sport? I understand the Sport is heavier and pricier but has better/more weather sealing...Has the Sport been sufficient for you? \$\endgroup\$
    – Dom
    Jun 9, 2021 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've found the Contemporary model excellent. I chose it since it was cheaper and MUCH lighter (I only shoot handheld) than the Sports, and the difference in IQ between them is pretty small. The sport version is more solidly built and has better weather sealing, if you shoot in rain or dust a lot, but the contemporary is sealed around the mount. The contemporary version has a less stiff zoom ring which allows for faster zooming (and less missed shots), and it fits in my camera bag, being 1.2 inches shorter than the sport version. Overall the contemporary is a better lens for most people. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2021 at 23:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, that's really helpful! \$\endgroup\$
    – Dom
    Jun 10, 2021 at 16:40

For daylight bird photography on Canon, my advice would be one of two sets:

  • A crop sensor Canon DSLR + Canon 400mm f/5.6L
  • A full frame Canon mirrorless R series camera + Canon 600mm f/11 or 800mm f/11 (or both)

I have tried the original 100-400 push-pull zoom. I didn't like the picture quality. I don't know if it was specific to the lens specimen I had or more general to the all 100-400 mk1 lenses -- I ended up selling it. Anyway, do note the 100-400 mk1 is from an era of film cameras. Modern DLSRs have far better resolution and thus the quality of the lens suddenly starts to matter. Film era lenses might thus not be such a good idea.

The 100-400 mk2 is unnecessarily heavy and expensive, I haven't tried it for these reasons.

The 400mm f/5.6L apparently isn't available as new anymore but a good quality used one should be easy to find. It lacks image stabilizer so it's useful only during daylight hours.

My opinion is that 70-300 as used on a crop camera might be okayish for wildlife photography of large animals but 300mm is way too short for bird photography.

About the R series cameras + f/11 lenses: I haven't tried those lenses but have seen good reviews. The f/11 might sound a bit too little light, but that problem is not as big as it seems:

  • Both f/11 lenses have image stabilizers
  • f/5.6 used on crop camera captures only (1/1.6)^2 the amount of light or 39% of the light it would capture on a full frame camera. It captures thus about as much light as f/9 would capture on full frame camera. Thus, going to f/11 is not as bad as it seems.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this! I hadn't considered a fixed 400mm but something to consider. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dom
    Jun 9, 2021 at 21:42

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